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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Britain's youngest mum: Girl who was pregnant at 11 says she will fight to see her daughter

By Maureen Culley
From :

Aged just 12 years old, this is Britain's youngest mother holding her newborn baby.

Still a child herself, the new parent's sunken, fearful eyes and inability to smile transform what should be a joyful moment into a desperately unsettling scene.

Tressa Middleton's pregnancy four years ago shocked the nation when she admitted having sex while drunk and spoke of her excitement at becoming a mother.

Now the Scot is 16 and fighting for the right to see her adopted daughter again, as the uneasy images of her holding her baby are shown for the first time.

She yesterday admitted spiralling into a deep depression and turning to alcohol and drugs after the baby was born, when she found herself battling to keep the infant.

Unsettling: Pictures taken if Tressa soon after the birth in 2006

Unsettling: Pictures taken of Tressa Middleton soon after the birth in 2006

Miss Middleton said she has quit drugs and alcohol and spoke of her regret at ever letting her baby go.

She told the Scottish Sun: 'I'm not a big drinker now and I don't smoke hash any more. In the past I've cut myself but I don't do that any more. I'm going to give myself a couple of years to get my life sorted, then I'm going to fight for access to my little girl.

When her daughter was born in 2006, the pair were taken into foster care. Eighteen months ago, a child psychologist decided it was in the best interests of the infant that she be adopted.

Miss Middleton signed papers handing over her daughter to an anonymous couple who, when the adoption became official, decided that they did not want to allow the birth mother any access.

Her only contact is now a letter from the child's new parents every six months, updating her on the little girl's progress.

Miss Middleton said yesterday: 'I got to meet her adoptive parents but I wasn't allowed to know their names. They were maybe mid-30s. They seemed lovely but it doesn't really matter who was taking her - I never wanted to let her go.

'After I'd signed the adoption papers, I went to court to fight for twice-a-year contact. I'd even tried to make a deal that if I signed the papers I would get to see her once a year, but the adoptive parents didn't want that. They don't want me to see her. They want to get on with their lives. It makes me hate them.

'At the end of the day, she's my wee girl and I'm doing them a favour. I wasn't asking for much, asking to see her once a year, but they thought I was.'

Tressa Middleton

Heartache: Tressa, now 16, wants to see her child

When she became pregnant in 2005, the case prompted dismay from church and family groups, amid criticisms that a Scottish Executive campaign to cut teenage pregnancies had failed.

Concern over 'broken Britain' rose further when details of Miss Middleton's chaotic home life in Armadale, West Lothian,emerged.

She was one of six children - by four different fathers - to her then 34-year-old mother, who said she was 'proud' of her daughter for keeping the baby.

On the bleak streets where Miss Middleton was raised, petty crime is rife and drink and drugs are ever present. Boarded-up windows abound and gardens are strewn with bed frames, discarded mattresses and other rubbish.

Children gather on street corners and it is far from unusual to see young girls pushing prams.

Despite barely being out of primary school, Miss Middleton smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day, used cannabis and downed cocktails of Buckfast tonic wine and vodka.

Speaking under the cover of anonymity at the time, she disclosed that she had discovered the pregnancy weeks after having drunken sex in August 2005.

Drawing on a roll-up cigarette while heavily pregnant, she said: 'I slept with him because I was drunk and I wanted to. I don't regret it because if I didn't have sex with him I wouldn't have my baby. I knew straight away that I couldn't have an abortion because that's something I don't believe in.'

The girl was scared to tell her mother who, ironically, had given birth to her youngest child days before her daughter found that she was pregnant.

Miss Middleton admitted that she had an argument with her mother after breaking the news of her pregnancy.

'It was hard but it has brought me and my mum closer together,' she said. 'It's good to know I'll have my mum there to help me if I need her.'

Now 16 and legally an adult, she is able to speak openly about her experiences for the first time and has also allowed the images of those early moments after the birth to be published.

Miss Middleton, who believes she has 'turned a corner' in her life, hopes to join the Army and prove that she deserves to see her child again.

She spoke yesterday of the time when she first felt that she would lose her daughter.

This came before the adoption was even official, when the baby went to live with her foster family and the teenager was allowed to see the child only every three months at a family centre.

Tressa Middleton

A child herself: Tressa with her newly-born daughter

The young mother said: 'My daughter sometimes called me "Mummy" then one day she called me by my first name and called her foster carer "Mum". It really hurt and I burst into tears. Then she wouldn't come to me. She refused and would start screaming. It felt like every time I saw her I was losing her more and more.

'The adoptive parents gave her their surname. They've kept her first name the same, but hearing that her name had changed was heartbreaking. It's like they're turning my wee girl into someone different. She was dressed different and her hair was different. It was hard to see someone else bringing up my wee girl.'

Miss Middleton is not allowed to know where her daughter is living or see photographs, although the latest progress letter, from March, described the three-year-old as 'a very happy, chatty, self-confident and together little girl.'

Miss Middleton said: 'When I read it I just started crying. It says she can read numbers 0-9 and count to 20. That's all the things I wanted to teach her as her mum. It's wee simple things like that which affect me.

'I get upset when I see wee girls walking past with their mums. I miss my wee girl every day. I've kept all her clothes from when she was a baby. I keep under my pillow a wee pink Babygro and hat from when she was born.'

Miss Middleton, who now has only limited contact with her own family and lives in Dumfries, admitted, however, that adoption was in her daughter's 'best interests'.

But she added: 'It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I don't think I can give my daughter the life she needs just now.

'When I'm older I want to build a relationship with my daughter. I'm concentrating on sorting myself out so that one day I'll hopefully see my wee girl again. I love her to bits.'